Even with news alerts activated, it is nearly impossible to stay up to date on the current situation in Ukraine. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the unhappy duty of updating our dedicated client site as the number of Ukrainian citizens fleeing the country has increased from 1 million to more than 3.6 million.
Sadly, with intense fighting, Martial Law extended to at least April 25, and peace talks ineffective, the humanitarian crisis continues to grow and, along with it, global outrage. Long queues, major congestion, confusion and limited travel options in the region are exacerbating this highly fluid situation.
Although there is no precedent in modern times for a disaster like this, learning from previous emergency situations, most employers activated their emergency response plans immediately. Together, we jumped into action, rallying support from our DSPs, liaising with immigration experts, coordinating temporary housing options, evacuating employees, repatriating assignees and resettling employees while providing a steady conduit of timely and essential updates.
Despite inventorying housing options, the surge in housing demand resulting from the refugees has heightened the challenge of finding temporary accommodations in critical locations. Household goods transportation in the region is nearly impossible given the driver shortage and lack of capacity at storage facilities. In some areas, it is simply not safe to provide services. Temporary housing accommodations in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania are scarce, and prices have risen dramatically. Securing temporary housing demands everywhere throughout Europe requires swift decision-making.
Opening borders, labor markets, schools and housing to Ukrainian refugees is releasing some pressure on neighboring countries. It is encouraging to see how quickly the EU Member States are implementing the provisions of the Temporary Protection Directive to ease immigration pathways, and now other countries have followed suit. In the UK, the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched on March 14, 2022, and Canada (with the second-largest Ukrainian population outside of Russia) announced the new Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) temporary residence pathway for Ukrainian refugees. CUAET permits will be valid for up to three (3) years. The United States is providing temporary protected status for Ukrainians already here. It has just announced it will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion and is pledging $1 billion in new humanitarian aid.
As immigration authorities prioritize Ukrainian citizens, applications from other regions take a back seat, causing delays for assignees in the queue. Similarly, the war is having a ripple effect on gas prices (effecting transportation allowances), food prices and exchange rates – all of which are impacting existing assignees and planning for new assignments. Now is the time to assess the financial impact of those on assignment and update cost projections accordingly.
As new sanctions are announced, it is becoming more challenging to relocate Russian citizens and employees wishing to depart Russia. They face limited travel options, visa and foreign residency requirements, not to mention growing condemnation by Western countries. It is anticipated that these conditions will continue and possibly worsen in the foreseeable future.
Amidst all the horrific news, it is heartening to see our valued partners rise to the occasion, offering pro-bono services for language training, cultural orientation, and advice and counsel to keep us all well informed. As the crisis enters its second month and escalates dangerously, it becomes clear the impact will be broad and enduring, not just for assignees and employees in the region, but to the supply chain, household goods transportation, and the willingness of employees to relocate worldwide.
Please revisit our dedicated blog here for ongoing updates, but, more importantly, if you need help with a current case, please get in touch with your Weichert representative.
Lastly, consider donating to one of the many incredible relief agencies helping Ukrainians. The Worldwide ERC Foundation for Workforce Mobility has just announced it will match donations up to $30,000 with funds to be distributed between the World Central Kitchen and the UN Refugee Agency.